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Nursing shortage could mean more duties for family as caregivers

Recently, two residents recently died at care centre in Calgary due to badly infected sores, which were not properly cared for. Where were the nurses to look after these residents and how did small sores end up letting them die? These stories about Albertans are indeed alarming and have been occurring more often with no solutions.

I realize there are many problems in the Alberta health care system but I wonder if the magnitude of the problem is important to public or if they haven’t made the connection about what it means to them and their families health for the future.

Nurses are the No. 1 profession in the health-care environment, but over the last decade there has been a growing shortage of skilled experienced nurses in Alberta and more and more Albertans could be at risk.

All across Alberta, registered nurse, registered psychiatric nurse and licensed practical nurse jobs are disappearing as the government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services have implemented staffing changes they call “workforce transformation” and “workplace optimization.’ These programs work by replacing educated and skilled nurses, whose profession is regulated, with non-professional and unregulated health care aides. While this is cost effective, this also lowers the quality of health care and increases risks for patients.

Nurses are the key reason our health-care system is safe and cost effective. Nurses play an important role of caring for patients and their families and with less skilled health-care aides working instead of nurses, hospitals will need to work at a different models of care for patients. This nursing shortage could mean more duties for families as caregivers.

With hospitals utilizing more health-care aides and fewer professional nurses, vulnerable populations such as seniors, chronically ill children and those with long-term mental and physical disabilities may be discharged more quickly to alleviate pressure on the already overstretched medical system and the remaining overworked nursing workforce. With less skilled nurses watching out for patients, families will need to take more responsibility for their loved ones. This can lead to problems for family members, who may need to take on caregiving roles unexpectedly, a situation many of us have not had to face.

While this is all very alarming, it is not something that is new or unknown. Many Albertans have been affected by fewer nurses in all areas of health care. As Alberta Health Services reduces more professional regulated nurses with specialized skills, areas such as wound management — as in the case of the two Calgary area residents — will we delegated to health-care aides.

It is up to us to protect our families and make sure they have the care they need and deserve. Many of us experienced care from a professional nurse, whether psychiatric nurse, registered nurse or practical nurse, and we know the value of nursing care for our families and ourselves.

If we don’t want more health-care stories in the news, we need to support nurses and in turn support the health of all Albertans for the future.

To learn more, visit

Christopher Mah

Registered nurse

Red Deer



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